Posted: April 19, 2013
Made in Colorado 2013: Pet productsBy Eric Peterson
Rubber dog toys
Maybe you can’t teach old dogs new tricks, but Joe Markham, the founder of KONG, learned firsthand that you can teach them new habits. The first KONG, a primitive version of today’s popular toy, was accidentally conceived while Markham and his fuzzy pal Fritz were working on a beat-up Volkswagen. Markham haphazardly tossed aside a piece of suspension and was surprised to find the chewy rubber satiated his canine’s destructive desire to chew.
What began as a mom-and-pop shop has evolved into a large-scale operation. KONG employs over 200 people in offices across the globe and boasts 360 products sold in 66 countries. True, things have changed since KONG was introduced in 1976. But two steadfast promises drive the company: local production and quality output.
The first KONG was made from rubber from Gates Corp., a local institution headquartered in Denver, and all KONG rubber products are still manufactured at the company’s Golden office. KONG may not be the cheapest pet toy on the market, but you get what you pay for. “A lot of people have tried making knock-offs by using plastic or adding fillers and synthetics,” explains Vice President of Marketing Donna Montgomery. “We keep the rubber in its natural state.”
A feline-only veterinarian with three decades of experience, Dr. Bruce Elsey knows a thing or two about cats. When he noticed abuse, neglect and abandonment typically stemmed from litter box confusion, Elsey invented Cat Attract. The revolutionary litter – with an herbal scent guaranteed to bring cats with potty problems back to their litter boxes – was a welcome addition to the line of Precious Cat litter Elsey had begun honing in the 1980s.
“Cat Attract is the only litter of its kind on the national market today,” says Marketing Director Gina Zaro. Locally manufactured in Englewood and sold at PetCo, PetSmart, King Soopers and various independent retailers, Precious Cat provides a wide array of all-natural problem cat and kitten litters.
With nearly a dozen varieties, the innovative team at Precious Cat strives to deliver solution-based products for every customer. Take the company’s bestselling Ultra litter, which is 99.9 percent dust free. “It’s the lowest-dust litter out there,” Zaro explains. “We have tons of asthma and allergy patients, both cat and human, who use our products.”
Boulder Dog Food Co.
Even in today’s indulgent world of exquisite pet hotels and dog psychiatrists, there are few dog and cat treats made from 100 percent meat or fish. “That’s our claim to fame,” says Barbara Galisath, co-founder of the Boulder Dog Food Co.
The high-quality goodies made in Boulder since the company’s inception in 2004 are derived from additive-free, human-grade food. That’s right: food. All-natural bison products are extremely popular – the meat is purchased in Western states and the animals are responsibly used in their entirety for everything from jerky to chews to bones. Organic beef sourced from Colorado farms and chicken purchased at local co-ops are baked into other delectable treats. While the gourmet goods are primarily sold in Colorado, they’ve been gaining popularity across the country.
Hence, the company’s current emphasis on expanding from wholesale to online and individual sales. There’s also talk of breaking back into the pet food market. “We started out making high-quality dog food,” explains Galisath, “but the venture wasn’t economical given the cost of our meats.” As such, Galisath and her partner Ed Withers scaled back, focusing solely on treats – and dogs all over Colorado love them for that.
The Good Dog Co.
Dog and cat accessories and toys
Hemp is the company’s durable, sustainable material of choice for leashes, toys and collars.
Paws & Co.
Paws & Co. makes dog chews from deer, moose and elk antlers.
Dog toys and leashes
The primary materials for Shifting Gears’ products are recycled tennis balls and climbing ropes.
Dog toys and leashes
SLEASH combined a slinger and a leash into a SLEASH and makes a variety of toys in Colorado as well.
Soft Bite Floppy Disc
Fabric discs are better than plastic for fetch with Fido, and the folks at Soft Bite have been in the business for more than 20 years.
Denver-based writer Eric Peterson is the author of Frommer's Colorado, Frommer's Montana & Wyoming, Frommer's Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks and the Ramble series of guidebooks, featuring first-person travelogues covering everything from atomic landmarks in New Mexico to celebrity gone wrong in Hollywood. Peterson has also recently written about backpacking in Yosemite, cross-country skiing in Yellowstone and downhill skiing in Colorado for such publications as Denver's Westword and The New York Daily News. He can be reached at Eptcb126@msn.com